RSPCA welcomes Sentience Bill and calls for 'meaningful' committee to hold ministers to account

RSPCA welcomes Sentience Bill and calls for 'meaningful' committee to hold ministers to account

The RSPCA today welcomed the creation of an Animal Sentience Committee and urged Government to ensure it was effective and meaningful in protecting animals.

A new Sentience Bill was laid today (Thursday 13th) which includes the creation of the Sentience Committee to hold 'ministers accountable for animal welfare in policy making'.

The RSPCA welcomed moves to ensure animal sentience is legally recognised as it was the only issue that was not carried over as the UK left the European Union on 31st December 2020.  

Chris Sherwood, Chief Executive of the RSPCA, said:

Science shows us that many animals are sentient beings, able to experience feelings like pain or pleasure, and they should be protected in law.

We warmly welcome the Sentience Bill and the formation of the Animal Sentience Committee so that all government departments would have to consider the impact on the welfare of sentient animals when developing any policies in any area of life. 

The issue of animal sentience has implications for all areas of human-animal interaction; if animals can have feelings, as we know they can, both their physical and mental welfare needs must be taken into account. This is very important with respect to laws, policies and people's behaviour relating to animals and their welfare.

As in Scotland, the Committee should be independent, made up of leading animal welfare, ethical and other experts. We are keen to see the Committee has a meaningful impact on Government policy and there is a requirement for Ministers to respond in a timely manner to their recommendations.

Decapod crustaceans and cephalopods, such as lobsters, crabs and octopuses, can also experience pain and distress. They are currently left out of the new bill and need legal protection too. We are pleased the Government is considering the growing science in this area.

Many animals experience negative and positive feelings

A poll of RSPCA inspectors working on the frontline showed 73% believed that people committed cruelty to animals because they didn't understand that animals were sentient with feelings and emotions.

Rat being fedA wide and growing body of research reveals that many animals, from chicken and lobsters to rats and fish are sentient beings, experiencing negative and positive feelings like pleasure, joy, pain and distress.

For example, rats have been found to 'laugh' when tickled, chickens are intelligent, have distinct personalities, use over 20 different calls and have a sense of time and crustaceans such as lobsters and crabs respond to the pain of a mild electric shock and have decision-making capabilities to avoid a shock in the future.

Visit the RSPCA's website for more information about the campaign for animal sentience legislation.